Friday, August 15, 2008

Poetry Friday: Memorizing Shakespeare

It's been too long since I mentioned Shakespeare. So...

The idea is that you download an MP3 file which contains all your lines, divided into short sequences. You listen and repeat after the bell, building fluency as you go. You learn your own lines, then have them cued to you by the other character's lines.

I downloaded the free sample of Hamlet's famous "To Be or Not to Be" soliloquy, and I'm working on it. I'll let you know how it goes. Right now, I feel like "an unlettered, small-knowing soul." (Love's Labour's Lost I, 1)

So why do it? Because...

"A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind—

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs. ---from Ars Poetica by Archibald Macleish

The rest here.

Maybe I should memorize that one, too...

Poetry Friday is hosted by Kelly at Big A, little a


  1. ...and there was even a full moon last night to complete the effect!

  2. There are SO many poems to memorize in this world! This is a gorgeous one.

  3. Good luck! I once interpreted that soliloquy from HAMLET, and it's very, very difficult in ASL. Memorizing it would be a blast.

  4. Hey Sara!!!! I don't know why it has taken me so long to find you?! Sarah Frances and I had so much fun meeting you in LA! We have been wildly working since we got back :-)

    I love your picture with all the papers behind you!

    Come visit us over at I need to link you to our site.

    Keep in touch!


  5. Thanks for the link! I admire your noble aspirations :). I have only committed a few poems to memory, and I'd love to master many more.

  6. I used to work with an ultramarathoner. He memorized poetry and recited it to himself while he ran for hours at a time. That always sounded so serene to me.

    Will have to check out the site -- thanks for the link.

  7. It's definitely harder than I thought it would be. There are "easy" lines and then some devil ones that continuously escape me.

    Jacqui, I just put the recording on my ipod for runs! I'll look crazy, muttering to myself, but who cares?

  8. If I can get my daughters interested in Shakespeare on audio, I'd memorize it effortlessly... Right now they have 'The Magician's Nephew' playing continuously, and I'm pretty sure I can recite long passages.

    'Ars Poetica' is a truly beautiful poem.

  9. Great idea. Although I took my friend Bruce Coville's advice on memorizing poetry and decided to record myself reading the poem, then play it back. His rationale (and it makes sense, I think) is that you find your own pacing and rhythm of the poem or lines that way, as opposed to trying to fit yourself to someone else's.

  10. My husband is a master at mastering poetry memorization. His brain just works that way. Mine, not so much. I have to work at it much more.

    Beautiful Macleish poem and thanks for the Shakespeare link. What a great idea for memorization, which, I agree with you, is worth it.

  11. Sara,
    Thanks for writing this post about my site. Please let me know what your overall impression of the product is, and any suggestions you have for its improvement. I appreciate any feedback.
    Obviously, ScenePartner is designed for the actor, I never thought poets would be interested...


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